Abstract

In genome-wide analyses of DNA copy number abnormalities (CNAs) and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarrays, we previously reported a high frequency of genetic alterations of regulators of B lymphoid development and cell cycle in B-progenitor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), and a near-obligate deletion of the transcription factor Ikaros (IKZF1) in BCR-ABL1 ALL (

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2007
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2008
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). To assess the prognostic significance of genetic alterations and their effects on the leukemic cell transcriptome, we have now extended these studies to a cohort of 221 NCI high risk pediatric ALL cases treated on the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) P9906 trial. The majority of these cases (N=170) lacked known cytogenetic abnormalities, and none were BCR-ABL1 positive. CNA and LOH data were generated using Affymetrix 500K SNP arrays, and gene expression data was available for 207 cases. Genomic resequencing was performed for PAX5 and IKZF1. These analyses revealed mutations in genes regulating B lymphoid development in 57.5% of cases, including PAX5 CNAs (31.7%), PAX5 sequence mutations (8.1%), IKZF1 deletions (24.9%) and IKZF1 sequence mutations (2.6%). In addition, recurring CNAs were detected in a number of other genes known to play roles in transformation and drug response including CDKN2A/B (45.7%), RB1 (11.3%), BTG1 (10.4%), IL3RA (6.8%), KRAS (6.3%), NRAS (2%), NR3C1 (2%), NR3C2 (3%), and ERG (6.3%). To examine associations between genetic alterations and outcome in a genome-wide fashion, we used a semi-supervised principal components approach and identified a predictor of outcome driven by deletion/mutation of IKZF1, EBF, and BTLA (hazard ratio 3.74, P=8.1×10−5). IKZF1 lesions were most strongly associated with poor outcome (cumulative incidence of relapse 68.8% in IKZF1-mutated ALL vs. 29.1% for IKZF1 wild type cases, P=0.002). This copy number predictor also predicted outcome in an independent cohort of 258 B-progenitor ALL cases treated at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital (HR 3.76, P=0.00023). Importantly, the St Jude cohort had a much higher proportion of cases with conventional recurring cytogenetic abnormalities including hyperdiploidy and translocations than the COG P9906 cohort (60.4% versus 23%, respectively), including BCR-ABL1 (N=21; 8.1%). Notably, the association of IKZF1 mutation and poor outcome was also observed in the cases lacking BCR-ABL1. The presence of an IKZF1 mutation was also associated with a high-level of minimal residual disease following induction therapy in both cohorts. We next defined a gene expression profile of high risk (IKZF1-mutated) ALL in each cohort. Using gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA), we found the high risk gene expression signature to be positively enriched for hematopoietic stem cell genes and genes associated with minimal residual disease, and negatively enriched for genes regulating cell cycle progression and genes upregulated during B cell maturation. Moreover, GSEA also demonstrated significant similarity of the expression signatures of high risk COG and St Jude ALL, a striking finding given the marked differences in sample composition of the two groups. As IKZF1 mutation is a near obligate lesion in BCR-ABL1 lymphoid leukemia (
Nature
2008
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) and in this study is a strong independent predictor of poor outcome in BCR-ABL1 negative ALL, we next examined similarity of the gene expression signatures of high risk (IKZF1-mutated) BCR-ABL1 negative ALL and BCR-ABL1 positive ALL. Using GSEA and direct comparison of differentially expressed genes, there was highly significant similarity between the two signatures. These findings indicate that IKZF1 mutation is a key determinant of the gene expression signature of both BCR-ABL1 positive and negative ALL, and is thus likely to be central to the pathogenesis and poor outcome of both leukemia subtypes. Thus, IKZF1 deletion is a new prognostic factor in ALL, and is associated with a gene expression profile indicative of impaired maturation of the leukemic blasts, an observation compatible with the known role of IKZF1 in regulating early lymphoid development. These findings have important implications for risk stratification of ALL.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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